ULR flight

Apr 8, 2015

An airline critique of mid air refuelling as a SYD-LHR solution

A UK story about how a university research program could solve the problem of ultra long range (U

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking


A military solution to an airliner problem? Not likely

A UK story about how a university research program could solve the problem of ultra long range (ULR) flights like Sydney-London non-stop is behind a terse email from an airline contact of note this morning.

It says “they haven’t a clue about operational issues” and drew attention to a discussion many years ago when Boeing was canvassing the potential of such flights with a very low seat count and very high fare service using its yet to enter service 777-200LRs.

Sydney or Melbourne non-stop to London was irreverently described as the Holy Grail of airline operations in the early to middle years of the first decade of this century, eventually being killed stone dead by dreadful economics, operational constraints and of course concerns about where the price of fuel was headed, although it hadn’t surged to the heights it reached before the recent oil price collapse.

But mid-air refuelling, as proposed by a project jointly undertaken by a group of European universities, was not the main focus of the original proposals, getting only minor references on the edge of the conversation that ensued for a number of years.

The UK report here is dated 07 April not 01. Whether the project really exists or whether Travel Weekly was hoaxed remains to be seen, since all the universities named are in bed at this hour.

But let’s assume this is real, wet behind the ears more EU funding lunacy stuff, and go back to why refuelling was an idea on the fringe of that conversation.

In no particular order a suitable candidate tanker had to be found, as airliners carry much higher payloads much further than is the case for fighter attack or bomber jets, and to have any chance of being economic, the civil tanker would need to be able to refuel multiple airliners, all in much the same part of the sky in quick succession. (Which is acknowledged in this new study).

That civil tanker would then have to be funded for its modification and certification program, the candidate jet for that being another specially converted 777 in that early century speculative conversation, if not a converted 747.

The refuelling procedures would not only require special coordination and prioritisation by ATC, but the availability of an optimum number of the airliners needing refuelling in any tightly timed interval.

Those airliners would have to be always on time, much more ‘on time’ than is the case with northern winter diversions and airport closures, and airlines would still have to pay for missed refuelling appointments to avoid sending the operator of the tanker broke, since the charges would be fixed for those airliners that turned up on time.

A question that would need urgent answers would be costs of the fuel burned to carry the fuel destined to be loaded onto the client airliners.  Part of the dismal maths of ULR flights is the need to burn a huge amount of fuel early in a flight like Sydney-London in order to arrive at the destination with legal diversionary fuel reserves, even if the city-beyond diversionary fuelling technique was used in planning the flight.

(Such as filing for a flight fuelled to Warsaw but then diverting to London at the last moment, thus arriving with just enough juice to make it to the gate without being towed. For your entertainment, your seat back video options will include a fuel gauge graphic showing how many minutes of flight remain in the tanks and which airfields might still be open within a gliding range of top of descent into London at the moment it gets closed to arrivals. )

The European team argues the case for a net fuel saving even when the tanker issues are taken on board.  But those savings would all be paid for by the tanker operator, making its services anything but inexpensive. Turning the university study into a real world commercially attractive practice would be very difficult.

Then again, the study also refers to a nuclear option, for near perpetual globe circling nuclear powered mother ships to which ‘ordinary’ airliners would transfer passenger for dropping off via other conventional airliners at the end of epic intercontinental flights.

Great idea. All we have to do is fully solve the problems of ground based nuclear power (a worthy aim) and then replicate them in a light weight aerodynamic form and the world might get a 22nd century solution to a 21st century problem.

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41 thoughts on “An airline critique of mid air refuelling as a SYD-LHR solution

  1. LongTimeObserver

    Great derivative and program life extender, the A380K…

  2. ghostwhowalksnz

    It would have to be the USAF system of flying probe which locks into receiver in crown of airliner as the flow rate has to be fairly high.
    That makes only one airliner at a time. They would fly in racetrack patterns like the military tankers do.
    The real killer is it would likely double the cost of the fuel you are taking on.
    Then there are all the other reasons

  3. comet

    Climate change might also knock ultra-long flights on the head.

    The science keeps firming, and the pressure to be greenhouse neutral will dramatically increase.

    In the meantime, a replacement for lithium-ion batteries was announced this week, with aluminium-ion batteries finally being developed to a practical stage. Short changing times, and 3x the energy density as lithium..

    While maybe they won’t become the main source of power, I can imagine future airliners being full of them. They also don’t ignite like 787-style lithium batteries.

  4. [email protected]

    Can you imagine it? Direct flights between Sydney and London. What does that mean? A choice of only BA and Qantas.

    As someone who struggles enough to sit out an eight hour flight, I will happily live with flying two (or even three) stops via a hub.

  5. Chris Hartwell

    Constantly circling nuclear platforms would, presumably, be in a better position for space-based disposal of nuclear waste. My question therefore is: What effect is there on the giant fusion reactor that is our sun by launching spent nuclear fuel into it?

  6. sim86on

    To add another hurdle:
    Client airliner modifications and pilot training for in-flight refuelling.

  7. Confirmed Sceptic

    The idea has easily* solved techical issues, but insurmountable practical ones.

    * simply double the complexity of fuel systems, double pilot training, ensure critical tanker reliability, ensure alternate airfield recovery, etc.

    As a practical matter, this idea would double the cost of fuel, would reduce reliability and provide no real benefit.

    Oh yeah, accept the fact that this theoretical refueling would occur over India or one of the ‘stans. What fun.

  8. Aero Eng Aviator

    A bit late for Apr 1.

    There would be nothing like an airborne nuclear reactor splashed across the landscape after a plane crash.

    Incidentally, when I worked at AAEC Lucas heights for a period in the 1960s and 70s they were looking at and doing experimenting towards developing a U-Th fuelled Be moderated gas cooled reactor called Aborigine. The U-Th and Be was in small spheres around which the air would circulate and be heated. The hot air could then drive a turbine. Thank goodness the project never got off the ground.

  9. comet

    What? They called a dangerous reactor ‘Aborigine’?

    For starters, the term ‘Aborigine’ is generally considered racist. The correct term is ‘Aboriginal person’.

    I’ve never heard of this nuclear project with a racist name, but I thank you for mentioning it so it can be recorded for history.

    I would have named it the Federal Parliament Reactor, due to all the hot air that circulates.

  10. StickShaker

    Aero Eng Aviator: The scenario you describe of a crashed nuclear powered tanker would be a sight to behold for all of the various terrorist organisations around the world. It would literally be beyond their wildest dreams to have control of such an aircraft.

  11. johnb78

    The project is definitely real – here’s its website: http://www.cruiser-feeder.eu/
    It seems to be a modelling/concept-level study for areas of detailed research over the next 50 years of aviation, not a proposal that will appear on the desk of any airline operational managers during their career lifetime (unless perhaps they’re currently *very* junior). The kind of basic research that doesn’t cost very much, usually doesn’t go anywhere, but occasionally changes the world.

    Comet: I think the currently preferred term is “Indigenous Australian”. “Aborigine” was generally considered acceptable in the 1960s, in much the same way that Dr Martin Luther King used “negro” but now only the most racist of loons would do so.

  12. Herp A'Derp

    Seems a good time to post this: https://youtu.be/HnoF1AJXokM

    Now just imagine that experience with a few hundred pax in the back.

  13. Aero Eng Aviator

    For the sake of history and to show that I was not making it up. http://apo.ansto.gov.au/dspace/bitstream/10238/419/1/AAEC-E-230.pdf Suggest you only read the introduction unless you are really keen.

  14. ghostwhowalksnz

    Another acceptable apparently is Australian Aboriginal.

    The latin use was for people who inhabited the latium region before the romans.
    So this is where the use for the reactor would be: ab origine

  15. Dan Dair

    How about an aluminium-ion battery-powered aircraft,
    which has graphene-based solar-PV cells all over it’s skin to refresh the batteries in-flight.?

  16. Potsie Weber

    Why not just increase the tube diameter to that of a waterslide and instead of air-refuelling you could have air-repassengering onto a fully fuelled passenger jet.

    I’d better patent that idea before Airbus or Boeing add it to their windowless cockpit or vertical sleeping seat patents.

  17. Ben Sandilands

    I like the idea of capturing as much solar energy as possible using the outer layer of a monocoque type fuselage.

    Might not work as well as hoped on the transpolar routes in the dead of winter, where polar night would frustrate the otherwise elegant solution of scheduling all flights from east to west to keep the fuselage in close pace with the sun on epic routes like Australia to the UK non-stop.

    But a tantalising thought, especially in a world where the priority of renewable energy would out weigh and out vote our early 21st century preoccupation with convenient timetabling and the like.

    If we have only managed to capture total solar energy per unit of surface area to a small percentage of the possible energy recovery solar (and storage) technology must have a huge upside, the more so for buildings, housing, manufacturing and surface transport than aviation.

    The amount of solar energy at more than just visible wavelengths is very high in higher, thinner and clearer air. (As I quickly learned when climbing even at elevations of more than 5000 metres way, way back.)

  18. Aero Eng Aviator

    Thanks Ben for steering us back to reality. This is maybe another step closer to commercial solar powered aircraft.

  19. Dan Dair

    I’ll ask Potsie Weber to register my brilliant idea for me whilst he’s down at the patent office.!!!
    Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure that solar-PV is a bit of a misnomer as ANY light above a certain intensity will generate a PV current. (Obviously, solar-light is the most intense, free source)

    Consequently, an aircraft with PV cells on all parts of its skin will catch direct sunlight but also will utilise reflected light from clouds, snow, perhaps deserts & water and even the moon.?

    If the PV cells were light enough & thin enough (the point about graphene) to blend into the skin & not be a weight-penalty, the marginal gains of reflected-light-radiation capture could possibly be quite significant.

  20. Grizzly

    I was not surprised that the proposed non stop 777-200LR flights between London and Oz did not go ahead.

    As an item of self loading freight, I would much rather get out of the aircraft somewhere along the way, and go for at least a short stroll in the terminal, than remain cooped up in the aircraft on a non-stop flight.

    The other big problem with any non-stop flight proposals (including the latest one) is that a non-stop flight is not likely even to save much time if your ultimate destination or departure point in Europe is not London.

    So, eg, if you’re heading to or from Milan or Munich, you may not get there, or to Oz, any faster via LHR than you would via Abu Dhabi or Dubai, etc.

  21. Anton Szautner

    “What effect is there on the giant fusion reactor that is our sun by launching spent nuclear fuel into it?”

    If you aren’t being facetious:

    1. Nothing would happen to the Sun. The effect would be utterly insignificant.


    2. Launching anything to the Sun requires the complete cancellation of Earth’s 108,000 kph orbital speed around the Sun, which is harder to achieve than launching anything on a permanent escape trajectory into interstellar space from Earth.

    It isn’t an option.

  22. Anton Szautner

    …forgot to mention the additional handicap of achieving Earth escape velocity (~40,000 kph) off its surface in the first place: total velocity for reaching the Sun: ~148,000 kph.

  23. Aero Eng Aviator

    Anton: Again a bit far away from long distance air travel around Earth.
    Just for interest see Solar Probe Plus fact sheet http://solarprobe.jhuapl.edu/common/content/SolarProbePlusFactSheet.pdf .
    It will be using seven Venus flyby’s (not fly buys) over seven years to slow down and approach close to the sun. Presumably the same technique could be used to go into the sun.

  24. Chris Hartwell

    Aye Anton, not being facetious. There will be some absolutely head-scratching mathematics involved, but I’m thinking it would be a fine use for all those ICBMs that have been developed over the last century’s dick-waving contest. ICBMs briefly break atmosphere during their flight when launched from the surface – launching from higher up and sling-shotting around the moon should allow them to reach earth escape velocity

  25. derrida derider

    Never mind nonstop SYD-LHR. I’ve always wondered why some budget carrier didn’t try for a two or even three stop trip going closer to the great circle route than the ME (say Jakarta then Kazakhstan).

    With the extra break/s and reduced fuel carriage requirement just think how many punters you could get away with squeezing into that secondhand A320.

  26. michael r james

    Apparently on the A380 30 passengers can be traded for 200 nmi (370 km) more range, so I guess that is the way to go. I am sure someone could do the maths–how much more expensive do the remaining seats need to be. (Incidentally I guess this solution does not mean feeding pax into a boiler en route … though I can see a sort of Swiftian practicality to it especially on the bogan-bus to Bali).

    My own idea (patent pending) to save fuel is to get rid of aircraft undercarriages. I can’t find the weight but the u.c. of the A380 (20 wheels) must be at least 20 tonnes (anyone?). Based on that earlier formula (30 pax: 370 km) my rough calcs show this should give an extra 2,500 km range–as well it would save lots of fuel especially on those long journeys. My idea is to replace it with a detachable undercarriage, a kind of giant autonomous drone that flies automatically up to an incoming plane and mates with it for the landing.

    I reckon technologically this is entirely feasible today.

    My deep research (Wikipedia) reveals that belly landings (with undercarriage not down) is surprisingly safe. Example: On November 1, 2011, LOT Polish Airlines Flight LO16 successfully belly landed at Warsaw Chopin Airport due to technical failures; all 231 people on board escaped without injury.
    Of course it tends to wreck the plane (and engines) but I reckon some giant skis that are flush with the fuselage but which can be extended on shock-absorbers would do the job in emergencies while limiting serious damage. (This would also make sea ditching more survivable!)

    Another trick could be that the drone also has significant on-board power so that the engines on the plane itself could be less powerful without compromising takeoff (indeed, planes could have higher takeoff weight than their current configurations).
    An alternative (patent pending) to an autonomous flying undercarriage is to have a rail-mounted platform on the runway that is computer guided to lift up and mate with the aircraft as it lands. The thing is actually a rail-gun (or maglev) so it has immense power for both takeoffs and electro-magnetic braking on landing. In turn this would mean shorter runways and quieter takeoffs. In this system there would be separate wheeled platforms that come in under and mate independently to the plane when it has landed to take it to the terminal etc. These separate wheeled platforms could be battery powered and save on using the planes engines and fuel for taxiing.

    [I’ll have some of wot Michael is taking]

  27. Dan Dair

    A most impressive stream of consciousness…….

    Your posting reminded me of a couple of things;
    1. The launch system for Fireball XL5.

    2. The Shorts flying-boat Mercury & Maia combination.

    Re: item 1; I always wondered about how to satisfactorily land a spacecraft/aircraft which was designed without landing-gear.?

    Re: item 2; Saving a significant amount of weight on landing-gear (possibly including additional launch-power) would massively affect the potential carrying-capacity or range of an aircraft, but the item 1 problem still needs to be resolved.!!!!!

  28. Dan Dair

    You might need to have a little more water with it than Michael takes….!!!!

  29. Aero Eng Aviator

    MRJ, Airbus are with you, though a little behind still. http://www.airbus.com/innovation/future-by-airbus/smarter-skies/aircraft-take-off-in-continuous-eco-climb/

    Don’t give up, you are doing well.

  30. michael r james

    #29 Aero Eng Aviator at 8:19 am

    There you go! Love that article. But bleedin’ obvious innit?

    Well, yes, it is. After all it’s what happens on aircraft carriers all the time (indeed slightly anachronous because it is steam powered!).

    Incidentally the electro-magnetic rail concept would be compatible with existing airports and aircraft as the rail system would be flush with the existing runway, and for old-model aircraft the whole platform-thingy would be out of the way at the end of the runway.
    Dan Dair: water is for wimps.

  31. Anton Szautner

    @Aero Eng Aviator: Sure, gravitational assist is how we are able to send robotic spacecraft around the Solar System with a considerable savings in fuel. That Solar Probe Plus ‘Fact sheet’ is a sparse 2-page poster released back in 2010. (If you need comprehensive info on SolarProbe+ why not just go to the Wikipedia article on it?). It doesn’t mention the spacecraft’s launch mass: 610 kg. That’s rather lightweight as interplanetary probes go, despite being launched by the powerful Delta IV Heavy rocket that can send over 28,000 kg to low Earth orbit, over 14,000 kg onto a geosynchronous transfer orbit, or nearly 8,000 kg toward Mars.

    The reason for this is to impart considerably greater speed to the smaller mass payload. The transfer orbit to Venus for the first in the series of gravity assists doesn’t require anywhere near the speed they want to throw it, but every little bit helps and decreases the time to achieving the final mission orbit.

    Early mission designs looked at using another more direct method of canceling angular speed with respect to the Sun by using a one-time flyby of Jupiter. It is arguable whether a series of seven flybys of Venus is ‘simpler’ than the single flyby of Jupiter, but it does place the probe’s aphelion (farthest distance from the Sun in its final elliptical orbit) near the vicinity of Venus’ orbit
    instead of way out at Jupiter’s, where such a solar probe would languish for large periods of time during its circuit.

    Also, power, radiation and temperature control considerations become exacerbated – easier to engineer a craft specialized to handle the near-solar environment than to build one that can handle the opposite extreme plus extra (ionizing) radiation during the close flyby of Jupiter, and maintain power levels far from the Sun requiring much larger-area solar arrays which then become a serious liability near the Sun: At Jupiter’s 778,500,000 km distance from the Sun the amount of solar flux is 1/27 that which Earth is bathed in. (Jupiter is 5.2 times farther than our 149,600,000 km distance out). But the operational perihelion of SolarProbe+ is a mere 6 million km (yeesh) – where the solar flux rises to about 520 times that at Earth. Clearly, engineering considerations are best served by concentrating on building a probe dedicated to withstanding just that particular harsh environment and avoiding the opposite extreme with respect to low temp and power availability by a whopping factor of 14,000!

    The point is, if one wanted to drop garbage straight down into the Sun, the most ‘inexpensive’ way to go would be via Jupiter.

    (However! See my concluding remarks…).

    @Chris Hartwell: “There will be some absolutely head-scratching mathematics involved”

    Not for me or anyone else accustomed to orbital mechanics informed by elementary Newtonian physics. Its not even that hard to gain an intuitive grip on the basic principles of Newtonian gravitation and motion.

    I’m thinking it would be a fine use for all those ICBMs that have been developed over the last century’s dick-waving contest.

    You think so? Most of them (ICBMs with ranges beyond 5500 km) are barely capable of delivering their specific payloads of several tons on ballistic trajectories to any antipodal targets far short of the minimum necessary 29,000 kph to achieve low orbit, let alone the 40,000 kph necessary to reach escape velocity.

    ICBMs briefly break atmosphere during their flight when launched from the surface – launching from higher up and sling-shotting around the moon should allow them to reach earth escape velocity

    You don’t understand: to get to the Moon in the first place you need to attain very nearly escape velocity. “Launching from higher up” (presumably you refer to from a stationary position above the atmosphere) only means you’ve eliminated atmospheric drag during the earliest (and slowest) phases of flight. Launching from (say, 100 km altitude) helps almost not at all from a velocity change standpoint: you still have to accelerate your payload to 40,000 kph upward against Earth’s gravitational field, which at 100 km altitude is still about 96.8% that at sea level. (Trust me, I just calculated it. Try it yourself).

    But your premise is wrong from the get-go: the Moon’s mass and LOW orbital velocity around the Earth means its a poor candidate for interplanetary assist. It may be ok for using it for shuffling around the vicinity of the Moon or the langrangian points in the Earth-Moon system, and perhaps one day to a small population of NEO (Near Earth Objects, or so-classified Apollo, Amor and Aten asteroids with orbits that flirt with our planet’s orbit) but as a means of tossing you on transfer orbits to so much as Mars or Venus, using the Moon for gravity assist is almost worthless. It doesn’t have the ability to do any more but supplement whatever velocity a craft can attain by its own resources, and if it can get as far as the moon in the first place, it should be able to attain independent solar orbit allowing it to use a far more effective grav-assist later with Earth itself. Plus, the Moon’s orbit isn’t regular and it bobs around like crazy due to nutation, so timing and lunar mass concentrations and irregularities would introduce more trajectory errors adding needless complication.

    @ both Chris and Aeso Eng: Here’s the thing. The popular notion that the Sun is a convenient place to toss our garbage is pure Hollywood fantasy. Even if it is possible in principle to perform the trick, the amount of energy required to do it per unit mass is ridiculous. Chris: there are currently around a thousand ICBMs between the two major nuke nations, the US and Russia. Few if any of them could launch any appreciable payload with a mass beyond the final stage booster itself (if they are equipped with one, and most contemporary designs aren’t) to escape velocity, but for the sake of wild argument, lets suppose that each could throw a ton to Jupiter, from where it would drop straight into the Sun.

    Think about that for a moment: a thousand tons of spent nuclear fuel launched on a thousand separate rockets without a mishap.

    Good luck getting away with that in anything other than a silly computer game.

    Now consider this cute statistic: there is currently an estimated 220,000 tons of spent fuel that has accumulated around the world since the 1950s…and that figure is rising by an estimated 12,000 tons annually.

    Look it up.

    So, even if they could (and they can’t) send anything to Jupiter, a thousand ICBM launches, each sending an imaginary ton of spent fuel amounts to only 1/12 of the annual increase!

    Wouldn’t it be safer and a good deal saner just to carefully bury the stuff by well-studied means instead of risking perhaps up to 1/100 = 10 tons of that material being dispersed into our atmosphere on the near-inevitability of rocket malfunction over a thousand trial launches?

    The Sun is NOT a viable incinerator…at least not until it swells into its red giant stage approximately 5 billion years from now, and then it will likely dispose of our entire planet quite neatly.

  32. comet

    michael r James said:

    “My own idea (patent pending) to save fuel is to get rid of aircraft undercarriages.”

    Can’t be patented as there is prior art. Do a Google search for the 1950s movie ‘When Worlds Collide’, and then click the images button, to see a craft that launches and leaves its undercarriage behind.

    michael r James said:

    “Apparently on the A380 30 passengers can be traded for 200 nmi (370 km) more range, so I guess that is the way to go.”

    I think the airlines want to cram as many passengers as possible into their A380s. Stuff the range. Emirates is about to launch a 615 seater between Dubai and Copenhagen, seated in two classes. It must have the greatest passenger numbers of any regular flight in history.

  33. Anton Szautner

    @comet: indeed.

    “…the 1950s movie ‘When Worlds Collide’…a craft that launches and leaves its undercarriage behind.”

    That scene (the film came out in 1951) happens to have been somewhat prophetic in relation to subsequent research conducted since then. The idea had been employed in a number of science fiction stories through the ’50s and ’60s (for example, see Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, Maelstrom II, for example, which first appeared in a 1962 issue of Playboy, that described in detail what he first envisioned in 1950 as a member of the British Interplanetary Society, namely, the electromagnetic launcher. (And earlier still, more sketchily, in a story by Heinlein, if memory serves, in the mid ’30s).

    Of course, while such a contraption can only augment operation from the Earth’s surface to a limited degree (we live in a thick atmosphere, preventing us from moving too swiftly through it) but its real value will inevitably be exploited from airless bodies such as the Moon: in the future, almost everything (including passengers) that we launch from our lunar bases will be propelled by electromagnetic rails powered exclusively by solar energy, mitigating the need for rocket fueled propulsion in order to achieve lunar orbit or escape velocity. Rocket engines will still be necessary to land on the Moon, but after we establish an industrial/manufacturing base with a capability to build an electromagnetic launcher powered by a sufficiently large-area solar voltaic power grid (that can soak it up in most locations over the Moon’s surface for 2 weeks continuously every month) tossing stuff off from the Moon back to Earth or into any desired orbit – or to any interplanetary trajectory we choose, for that matter – will become inexpensively routine.*

    *even by our CURRENT standards of what constitutes money well spent – a government which, for example, decides that one-half of 1% of every tax-obtained dollar spent is deemed over-exorbitant in funding NASA ($17.7 billion)…as opposed to THIRTY TIMES THAT AMMOUNT for “defense” ($530 billion).

    If I am not terribly mistaken, in the concrete results each has demonstrated in their respective missions (say since 2001) those figures amply demonstrate just how perilously foolish we have been in assigning our money toward a long-term, economically sustainable future that begins to relieve our embattled planet of unnecessary resource exploitation, degradation and pollution, in favor of an interplanetary economy.

    And, yeah, airlines like to cram seats – its incumbent on ’em to attempt any profit they can, as lots of barking and yiping constantly asserts. Even so, mark my words, that odious trend will inevitably reach its ignominious limit in a big safety-issue way, and then the industry bean-counters will be left reeling, back-side-covering, blithering incoherently and blinking aghast at the resultant cost. Just watch.

  34. michael r james

    #32 Comet

    Drat. There I was planning my retirement on the proceeds …

    Actually I think a rail-gun type of launch track was considered for the shuttle. Thousands of tonnes of liquid hydrogen & oxygen seems very steam age. Must use much more energy lifting the fuel than the shuttle …

    I suspect one problem with electro-mag systems could be that the fragile humans on-board might compromise their effectiveness.
    An A380 with all economy seating could hold 850 pax.

  35. Dan Dair

    michael r james,
    “one problem with electro-mag systems could be … the fragile humans on-board”

    A controlled, increasing acceleration culminating in perhaps as much as 6 to 10G would probably overcome that problem.
    The mag-rail would need to be accelerated to take-off speed in no more than the same space as a current runway (with rejected take-off room), so the G-forces could be designed to at least match a contemporary aircraft.
    However the potential of a mag-rail would mean that acceleration could be increased up to a maximum ‘standard’ of untrained-human tolerance, which could mean shorter runways or perhaps considerably larger aircraft without the need for massively more engine thrust.

  36. michael r james

    #35 Dan Dair at 7:17 pm

    You’re talking about my patent-pending idea for terrestrial (if you get my meaning) planes. (But good to see you taking it seriously. I could sell you a share for a reasonable price if you want …)

    In #34, I was talking about space travel!

  37. Confirmed Sceptic

    The maglev suggestions are all good. Just maglev all passengers to the coast closest to their destination, fly a conventional aircraft from there across the water, maglev train to destination. Simplesk.

  38. Dan Dair

    That’s very considerate of you but I’ll be fine thankyou,
    I’ll have all the royalties from my own graphed-backed solar cells idea. (always assuming Potsie Weber remembered to register it for me)
    Two kilometers of Maglev track & a couple of launcher-platforms here & there
    are hardly going to be in the same league as the cost of actually creating a passenger-carrying Maglev train system right across the nation.?

  39. Chris Hartwell

    Well reasoned and researched Anton. Thank you.

  40. michael r james

    #37 CS, did you read Maurice Newman in his column in the Oz last week, where he …gasp… supported HSR and even mentioned maglev. Now, part of his enthusiasm appeared to be this current Abbott meme w.r.t. Japan. Newman wants the Japanese to both build it and finance it (from the approx. US$1 trillion of new money the Japanese have printed to kickstart their moribund economy). Oh, and as long as not a dollar of (Australian) public money is needed (straight from the mouth of his and Tony’s heroine, Maggie T.), and fares no higher than business-class airfares (?)!

    I’m not sure if he has travelled on maglev (fairly long ≈30km? test track in Japan that they take visitors for a spin), but that certainly has a habit of converting sceptics.

  41. Confirmed Sceptic

    Michael…No, I missed that since I won’t pay for a Murdoch paper. So, Japanese paper money will be used to indebt the travellng public? Why the hell don’t we print a few hndred bilion of our own? Everyone’s doing it! Infrastructure for free! Weeeee!

    Sobering up for a minute, I have tried the Maglev in Shanghai, and I have seen the future. Not our future, mind you, what with the high cost of importing steel from China, And the small customer base for anything spanning distances at a fair price.

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